Behind the masks: Why some Utahns choose masks to cope with the dirty air

Published: Sunday, March 9 2014 8:48 p.m. MDT

Amanda Theobald Next » 2 of 7 « Prev
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Amanda was a runner in college. She ran on red air days. She never checked air quality.

Now she rides her bike to work. The days spent breathing in Utah's' unclean air left Amanda's chest heavy at night.

"I didn't want to not be able to ride my bike to work," she said. "But I also didn't want to breathe in the air."

She now wears her mask every orange and red day.

Amanda chose a pink and white air mask not a black one.

"It was girlier and less scary looking," she said. "I wanted to be outside more so I got one."

She noticed her chest feeling heavy less often.

"I feel like my heart rate stays a little bit lower," she said. "You can't taste the bad air."

She said there is no healthy amount of air pollution.

"Just breathing in a little can affect you a lot."

Amanda now checks Utah's air quality religiously.

"It's not that big of a deal to put a mask on," she said. "I really like Salt Lake and if I'm going to live here for a long time then I would rather not, you know, die soon because of it."
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North Salt Lake, UT

So, apparently the answer to the question "Why some Utahns choose masks to cope with the dirty air" is that they have no understanding of atmospheric science, meteorology, or toxicology.

What is even more ironic is that every one of these photographs were taken on days where the pollutant levels were well below EPA standards, when a mask was not necessary.

Ogden, UT

I can empathise with people who are affected by their environment because it is something beyond their immediate control. Growing up in Salt Lake, I noted that most of the kids I knew who lived in Magna had respiratory problems. I don't see that as much anymore. But my granddaughter who has asthma avoids strenuous activities on certain days. She adapts her personal routine to the weather just as I don't go running on days when it is raining.

It was interesting to note that half of the 8 people wearing masks did not have symptoms but did so out of fear, a powerful motivator, but a product of our social environment more than the physical environment.

The EPA at one time ran an investigation on the particulates that made the summer air in eastern Tennessee so bad with a promise to crack down on the offenders. The result was that the source was a particular type of tree that gave off aromatic hydrocarbons when they breathe. Yup, that's why they call them the Great Smoky Mountains. No, they didn't chop down all the trees but they did have to retreat from all the raspberries being thrown their way.

Cedar Hills, UT

For me this is 100% not science relevent. They are using the mask for other purpose I cannnot understand.

Midwest City, USA, OK

Is the air -that- bad? I mean, there was nothing wrong when I was at the Missionary Training Center in Provo. Is it only a SLC-proper thing? I live on an air base with aircraft taking off all day without concerns...

American Fork, UT

I first saw a lot of people doing this during the SARS epidemic and I spent some time in Japan. Now it seems you see it all over, all the time, people in masks. I'm not sure if it's their assertion that the air is bad but this is all they can do about it, or they're just looking for a sense of security that a mask provides, although its' actual effectiveness is probably dubious.


The masks are interesting, but I question if they do any good. I suggest the DN do a follow up with someone at the U of U or a scientific person elsewhere who can answer that question.

Tooele, UT

Interesting that the small picture on the main page summarizing this article shows a woman in a mask in what appears to be an otherwise empty car, driving around contributing to the bad air while also wearing a mask. Makes a person want to ask, "What's wrong with this picture?"

Like someone else noted, the pictures were taken on a day when the EPA measurements had passable readings, meaning these people were just trying to make a point (activists?), ignorant, scared or a combination of all 3. In any case, I've not read or seen any reliable sources advocating the necessity of wearing masks here in Utah at this point in time. Until that happens, I'm not going to take any leads from people that appear to be uninformed.

I concur with the assessments of "A Chinese American", "Hutterite" and the suggestion of "ElJefeOcho".

Everett, 00

Too all the nay-sayers...

After loosing 4 days of work,
I bought and used disposable masks during the inversion this year.


YES, it made a huge difference!

Midwest City, USA, OK

I work at Hill AFB,
The DoD is aware and tries to do it's part during the inversions,
We ground our planes during the inversions -- so as to not add to the problem.

BTW -- You are comparing apples to oranges,
I've been TDY to Tinker and lived in Wichita for many years,
Tinker and the MidWest are not in any sort of a bowl.

The problem is real,
The problem is bad,
The problem is real bad.

Mchenry, IL

You may want to learn about fine dust and understands places like China, Korea and Japan wear masks not to prevent h1n1 or some disease but because of dust from the desert in China is carried by wind to northern China, Korea and Japan. There are air quality alerts. Not every wears the masks. Some have health issues making the particles more bothersome. Also there is a huge pollution issue in china and it's carried across the sea to its neighbors. Sometimes the particles are visible and sometimes people with respiratory problems can need protection even when levels are high, but not visible. That huge mountain range you are near in salt lake means bad air stays around a while.

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